FC Goa have seldom missed out on the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) playoffs, but they’ve fallen out of the knockout phase for a second consecutive season, the first time in their history. They had a mixed season under the leadership of Carlos Pena, with the Gaurs enduring seventh-place finish with 27 points from 20 games.

The Pena-coached side performed well in spells but conceded goals reguarly. Individual mistakes further proved costly in their chances of making the playoffs. They might have scored seven more goals than the previous season, but conceded the same number of goals as last season.

The Gaurs tallied just four clean sheets throughout the season, and improved performances from the backline would have indeed seen them advance to the playoffs. FC Goa captain Brandon Fernandes believes they would’ve finished in a much better position had they found the right balance in defence.

“We did quite well for the most part (of the season) but lacked consistency,” Brandon told The Times of India.

“Individual errors cost us. We did really well and scored a lot of goals (36) but at the same time conceded 35, which is not good. Defensively, we could have done better. If we had the right balance, defensively, we would have been higher up the table,” Brandon opined.

FC Goa did have a flying start to the season, having won three of their opening four games, but their inability to maintain their momentum towards the end of the season cost them a place in the playoffs. They ended their campaign with three straight defeats, especially when they had their qualification fate in their own hands.

After picking up just three points in the last four games, the Gaurs finished seventh, three points behind sixth-placed Odisha FC. Brandon insisted they tried their best to seek a playoff berth, but things didn’t work out according to their plan.

“The last four (games) were tough. We had only one thing in mind, to go for a win, but the results did not go our way,” Brandon said.

The Gaurs have already started preparing for the remainder of the season as they look to bounce back after a disappointing Hero ISL campaign. The playmaker believes his side can salvage their season with a triumph in the Hero Super Cup, having won the title four years ago in 2019.

“There is the AFC Cup spot (on offer) in the Hero Super Cup, so we will go with the best team and show the best version of ourselves. We want to win and finish on a positive note. It will be really great for us,” Brandon stated.

Brandon's performances have been hampered by several injuries since 2020. He could appear only in seven and 12 games in the last two seasons respectively. The Indian midfielder worked hard to regain full fitness and appeared in all 20 games in this season, for the first time in his Hero ISL career.

Despite playing all games, FC Goa’s No. 10 believes he could’ve done a lot better this season, having netted three goals and recorded three assists.

“The most important thing for me was to play all the games. I am really happy about that. With numbers (goals and assists), I think I could have done a lot more. I can always learn and improve as a player, learn from this season and add more numbers,” the midfielder said.

Brandon is one of FC Goa’s longest-serving players and donned the captain’s armband in the Hero ISL campaign this season. Talking about his experience of the captaincy role, Brandon said: “Captaincy was also a really good experience for me. The players helped me a lot. Football is not about one player; it’s a team sport, so everyone has to gel well. The dressing room was good this time, everyone was happy.”